Konjeihi shea butter producers get processing centre
Shea butter extraction, which is a major industry in the north of the country, needs a lot of financial support to enhance production for the socio-economic development of the country.
At the moment, the extraction of the shea is done by a small group of women in addition to their socially assigned roles in the family.
Picking of the shea fruits which provide the butter is done by the females and children at dawn between May and July in the bush.
The picking of the shea fruits can be a perilous affair because the fruit which has a sweet taste is also eaten by wildlife such as snakes. However, they brave the storm because the proceeds of the sale of the shea fruits enable the women to provide support to their families.
When collected, a maxi bag of the fruits could be sold for GH₡500, an amount which is not easily available to the small group of producers of the butter, especially the rural women.
Many of the women who have survived all the difficulties and manage to ply the shea business have been able to do so with support from some non-governmental organisations and some individuals.
One such butter production centre which has been provided to the women to facilitate economic activities and thus accelerate development was inaugurated for the people of Konjeihi, near Wa in the Upper West Region last Wednesday.
The Women's Enterprise Centre was constructed through a partnership of the women and the Baraka Impact Ltd of Canada at a value of GH₡1 million.
The shea butter which has provided financial support to many a family in the northern part of the country has a lot of economic and social values. Apart from the domestic usage, it is used as a base for soap and cosmetics.
At the inaugural ceremony, the Manager of Baraka Impact Ltd, Theophilus Apronti, called for the protection of the environment to ensure the sustainability of the shea tree.
He said the shea tree, which has been a source of income for rural communities all over the years faces the threat of extinction if proper care is not taken of the environment at a time when climate change has resulted in extreme conditions that is affecting the agricultural sector.
Mr Apronti, therefore, urged communities to identify and engage in income-producing activities that are resilient to climate change, to enhance their livelihoods.
The Chief Executive Officer of Baraka Impact, Professor Wayne Dunn, commended the women for the invitation and assured them of their readiness to partner them in the effort to improve their livelihoods through the processing of the shea butter.
He said the money provided was from their customers and assured them also of a ready market. Prof. Dunn said, through this their products apart from nourishing the skin will assist feed their families and ensure the needs of their children are met.
He assured them that through this their partnership would grow stronger and move from the region to the USA and Canada.
The Organiser of the Centre, Ms Gifty Lagegua, expressed her gratitude to Baraka Impact for agreeing to partner them to process the shea butter from their farms. Ms Lagegua recalled that they contacted the donors five years ago and through that, the women have been able to overcome the various challenges that they earlier faced in the processing of shea butter.
She said they had asked the donors to provide them with a source of potable water to facilitate the production process, which Baraka Impact had readily and favourably responded to by asking them to acquire a plot of land.
Ms Lagegua expressed appreciation to the chiefs and their donors for realising the potential of women and providing them with the centre, which will build their capabilities to enhance their livelihoods.
Explaining the shea butter production process, Ms Lagegua said after the shea has been boiled and dried in the sun, they were crushed by a machine and the nuts removed, separated from the shells, roasted and grinded into smaller parts and transferred into another machine.
She said the ground nuts were then vigorously mixed with the hands in water and boiled again. This is when the white substance which appears is scooped and boiled again. After this stage, the white substance is stirred, sieved and boiled again for the required quality.
She said the shea butter was then poured into a pot in the packaging room and allowed to cool down overnight, after which it was ready for packaging.
She said the group which constituted 100 women was founded in 2017 and has been engaged in the processing of the raw materials into shea butter since then.